Series: Walk on Wild Side
Also available: Walk on Wild Side Anthology
Rating: (I loved it!)
Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.
Note on rating: This story might be a little dark for some romance readers, but its depiction of gay men living in an especially hostile, pre-sexual revolution/LGBT-rights movement world very much resonated as truthful, accurate, and in the end intensely intriguing to me.
Review: I put off reading this story, as the description intimated it might be rather dark. I have studied Vichy France and suspected this might not be a pleasant tale. While it certainly was not a light, sweet romantic story, and it might be a bit too dark for some romance readers, it was absolutely perfect for me. In part, I think I related to it because it seems to me to present a good, realistic flavor of how difficult it was to be a gay man before the sexual and cultural revolution of the last forty years.
The writing gripped me from the beginning, with initial scene of a resistance fighter (and wolf shifter) on the run from German-aligned French “soldiers” (Milice militia-like policemen, I assume). The author’s slight tweaks on typical shifter paradigms, including significant but not complete healing from injuries, also signified this would not be a typical shifter tale. The strength of the work, however, had little to do with the paranormal aspects, but the struggles of two injured men trying to survive in an extremely hostile world, and both doing at least a bit of their part towards a better future.
The romantic connection might be considered rather flat compared to many entries in this genre, but to me the whole story was a slow, steady, and very palpable building of an intimate connection, even if it was deeply internalized and not apparent to others (or even themselves). Actually, this slow, internal build seemed to ring very true for those who had to live extremely closeted life.
Recommended for fans of: Stories of gay men trying to survive in an extremely hostile, homophobic environment; World War II/French resistance settings.
The story indicated the pursuers were French soldiers, but by 1944 I believe the remnants of the Vichy French Army had been dissolved, and in any case had been restricted to the Vichy controlled area. In its place, a French fascist militia-like police force had been raised, and operated in all of occupied France, including the Vosges Mountains where this story is set. The only true soldiers in this area would have been German units (including possibly German SS units that included French volunteers, but they wouldn’t be considered fighting for France per se). I’ve always heard the Milice referred to as police and not soldiers, but their militia-style uniforms certainly had a military appearance, so I assume the “French soldiers” were actually Milice police (militiamen).